The University of Michigan, an encyclopedic survey ... Wilfred B. Shaw, editor.
University of Michigan.

IN 1893, just three years after the establishment of the Women's League, the Women's Athletic Committee of the Women's League was organized. Ten cents out of every fifty-cent membership was set aside to finance the activities of this group. From this small beginning, in which the only sport offered was basketball, evolved the campus-wide Women's Athletic Association of today, offering women participation in more than twenty different activities. Ten years after the Athletic Committee was organized, the first annual indoor track meet was held. This and the annual class basketball tournament were the only athletic events for women.

By 1905 it was felt that other sports were needed. In order to draw these together, the Women's Athletic Association was formed "to promote interest in gymnastic and athletic sports among the women of the University." A meeting preliminary to the organization of the Association was called on May 25, 1905, by Dr. Helen E. Brooks, Physical Director of Barbour Gymnasium. Two days later, on May 27, the constitution was read and approved. The purpose of the association as stated in Article II was "to promote participation in athletic activities by, to emphasize physical fitness among, and to foster a comprehensive recreational program for the women of the University of Michigan."

The following officers were elected for the year 1905-6: Lotta Broadbridge, president; Margaret Turner, vice-president; Rena Mosher, secretary; Alice Reynick, treasurer; May Caughey, senior representative; Edith Lutz, junior representative; and Edith Edmiston, sophomore representative. The first official records of the association were begun at the first meeting of the Executive Committee in 1905. A bulletin board for W.A.A. notices was bought, and basketball, baseball, and tennis were organized. One problem of great importance the first year was the question of invitations to the basketball games. Much discussion of the subject finally resulted in amendments to the constitution. It was decided that invitations would be issued for each open game and that ten cents would be charged for W.A.A. members and twenty-five cents for others. Participants in the games received one invitation free, and the captains received two, but all extras had to be paid for. This income supplied the treasury. The Mandolin Club was organized as a part of the Association at this time, and a successful performance of the Swedish Dancers was given under the auspices of the W.A.A.

An Athletic Association pin was adopted in 1907-8 — a gold block "M" with a dark blue enamel oval on which the letters "WAA" were inscribed in gold. New events were added to the track meet, and class teams were organized. The girls were required to come out for practice once a week in order to participate in the meet. Fifteen cents was charged outsiders, admission being free to college girls.

The first W.A.A. handbook, describing the various activities available for women, was printed in 1908. A social chairman was added to the Executive Committee, and more than seven parties, banquets, and the like were sponsored.

Through the generosity of Regent Peter White, the first part of the land which now comprises Palmer Field was purchased in 1908 (R.P., 1906-10, p. 348), thus providing the women students of the University adequate space for athletics. In 1909 Senator Palmer contributed the money to pay off the debt on the field, and in appreciation it was named for him (R.P., 1906-10, p. 591). The Women's League contributed about Page  2008$5,000 toward the total purchase price of $9,000, and additional small lots were bought and added to the site. The facilities of Palmer Field include the Women's Athletic Building, an out-of-door fireplace, three hockey fields that are used interchangeably for other sports — soccer, lacrosse, golf, archery, track, and field. There are sixteen tennis courts and a beautiful nine-hole putting green and golf traps. Space is provided for volleyball, croquet, horseshoes, and quoits. An elevated terrace is used for instruction. The new Swimming Pool is situated directly south of the building.

In January, 1910, it was voted that the membership fee be fifty cents; this gave each girl admission to all games free of charge as well as the right to play on her own class team and compete in the various sports. It was also decided that captains and class managers would be members of the Executive Committee. The rules of precedence were established. The track meet was given up in favor of an enlarged and popular outdoor field day in connection with Lantern Night. In 1911 the system of requiring University regulations for team membership was inaugurated. Numerals were awarded to girls who made class teams in outdoor competitive sports or in the semi-final tennis matches, and letters were given those who made the championship team. A publicity manager was added to the Executive Committee. With an enlarged membership, the financial problems of the club became increasingly difficult, and many ways of raising money were tried. Candy was sold at the May Festival and refreshments on Field Day. Admission was charged to the Saturday afternoon parties, and gate receipts were collected for the final basketball games.

Requirements became more stringent every year for participation in sports, and in December, 1912, it was voted that a person with a below C average could not take part in athletics.

In June, 1912, a committee of the Athletic Association met with a committee of the Women's League, consisting of the president, Miss Bigelow, Mrs. Jordan, Miss Alfred, Miss Reighard, and Miss Higgins and passed the following recommendations:

1. That in view of the new Athletic Tax of five dollars, it is moved, seconded, and carried that the Athletic Association be merged into the Women's League to be known as the "Athletic Committee of the Women's League." 2. That there shall be but one fee, … twenty-five cents, which admits to membership of Women's League and that this committee shall hold no money but all bills received shall pass through the hands of the League Treasurer. 3. The persons of the committee shall be as follows: a chairman, a member from each class, and a member representing each sport. These persons shall be recommended by the preceding Athletic Committee to the League President and voted upon by the League Board, or appointed by the League President as League Board may decide… The Physical Director and her assistant shall be members ex-officio.


(MS, "Minutes of the Women's Athletic Association.")

It was decided in January, 1913, to permit graduate students to play on the senior team. The popular game of field hockey was introduced at this time. Attempts were made to instill athletic spirit in the women, and in order to arouse interest in sports, a letter was written to high-school girls planning to come to the University.

In the same year the Athletic Committee recommended that the head of each sport be chosen by the members of that particular sport, that the basketball manager be elected at the annual basketball banquet, the hockey manager at the hockey picnic, the tennis manager by participants in the tournament, and that Page  2009a nominating committee, appointed by the chairman of the Athletic Committee, report the candidates for office. The Athletic Committee was enlarged to include a baseball manager, and a study of the point system was begun. By 1914-15 the Athletic Committee consisted of eighteen members, including a recorder of athletic honors, whose duties hitherto had been performed by the Department of Physical Education. It was voted to accept the honor system for the Athletic Committee's point system, and a simple silver pin, with the original "M" adopted in 1907, was awarded for athletic achievement. A white sweater with roll collar and a blue "M" on a yellow background was given for 100 athletic honor points. It was also voted to award athletic honor points to the members of the Athletic Committee.

In order to secure funds for the clubhouse to be built on Palmer Field, various attempts to earn money were made in 1916-17. Weenies were sold at Palmer Field in the hockey season, bulbs were purchased and raised for sale, skating carnivals were held with an admission fee of fifteen cents, and at an all-campus dance one Saturday afternoon the Association cleared $100. With the formation of a dance club and a hiking club, a swing away from interclass competition began, with the result that today numerous sports clubs are affiliated with the Women's Athletic Association. The following year golf and horseback riding were offered.

In 1917 the organization once more severed its connection with the Women's League and drew up a new constitution, providing for a twenty-member board. In January, 1918, it was reported that the constitution had been formally accepted by the Committee on Student Affairs. A further revision of the constitution, in 1919, was followed by the adoption of standards for participation set up by the University Student Affairs Committee, and the Michigan organization became affiliated with the Athletic Conference of American College Women. A delegate was sent to the Central District Conference at Columbia, Missouri, and the uniform point system of the A.C.A.C.W. was subsequently adopted. Then the old system of awards was changed from a 100-point to a 1,000point basis, whereby membership was limited to those who had earned 100 athletic honor points.

A junior Women's Athletic Association was established in the year 1921 to supplement the major organization, and girls having fewer than 1,000 points automatically became members of the Junior Association. Dues of twenty-five cents were applied on the senior dues when a girl joined that organization. Because of the closed membership policy, however, the membership decreased, and financial difficulties developed. There was so little in the treasury in 1921-22 that no further activities or projects could be sponsored, and that year Miss Wood loaned the Association $45 to tide it over.

Because of the increasing number of women students, class competition grew more and more artificial, and interhouse competition became the basis of many tournaments. Honorary varsity teams in major sports were chosen by the student manager and the faculty sponsor of each sport. Interest in rifle marksmanship developed, and a club was formed; a swimming manager was added in 1921, and swimming rules and regulations were adopted; archery was included in the program.

With the appointment of Dr. Margaret Bell as Director of the Women's Physical Education Department and of Miss B. Louise Patterson (now Mrs. John Page  2010Van Sickle) as Assistant Professor in 1923, great progress was made in the development of the Women's Athletic Association. Dr. Bell, with the officers of the Association, drew up plans for a closer co-operation between the Women's Physical Education Department and the Association, directed toward the goal of athletic participation on the part of every woman on campus. She succeeded in obtaining a regular budget from the Palmer Field Fund for the Women's Athletic Association in 1925-26, assuring University women expanded programs in sports and allowing the Association to concern itself with the program rather than to expend all its energies in money-making ventures. Material awards for participation in sports were abandoned at this time, and it was decided that athletic honor points should no longer be given for executive positions.

In 1927-28, at the time of the construction of the Women's Athletic Building, "Sleepy Hollow" was shorn of its great oaks, and its hills were leveled and the grounds surfaced to provide the present Palmer Field. On January 11, 1928, the Women's Athletic Association held an informal housewarming in the building, which was formally opened on May 9. A sports conference for high-school girls was held in conjunction with Lantern Night. Bowling facilities were provided, and an attempt was made to organize teams for women living in league houses by zoning the houses and encouraging participation in these units. In April, 1930, the Michigan Athletic Association was host to the National Athletic Conference of American College Women, attended by 300 delegates.

In 1930-31 the constitution was revised so that every University woman was included in the Association. Women who had earned a minimum of five points and who had paid the annual dues of $1.00 became active members. A regular A.C.A.C.W. representative was appointed to the Executive Committee and charged with reporting an exchange of athletic news with other colleges. The association also sponsored a Hockey Play Day for five other Michigan colleges.

A reorganization of the Women's League Council in 1932-33 made possible an installation banquet held jointly by the League and the Athletic Association. Other new trends were evident in 1933-34. A student was a member of the Association without payment of dues, but she was considered inactive until she had earned fifty points. The school year was divided into four sports seasons with programs for each, and at least one team sport and three individual sports were offered each season. Volleyball was included. The Intramural Board, formerly in charge of interhouse competition, was discontinued, and sports managers were chosen, with house managers organized under a general intramural manager, thus placing students in responsible positions of leadership. At Lantern Night, competition among six selected girls from each house was an innovation; supper was served on the terrace of the Women's Athletic Building, and the senior line of march formed a block "M" to conclude the festivities.

A training course for Women's Athletic Association sports leaders was begun in 1935-36 as a joint project by W.A.A. and the Department of Physical Education for Women. Co-recreational activities were emphasized, and men and women participated in badminton, bowling, tennis, riding, dancing, swimming, hockey, and rifle. A more satisfactory plan for league house competition was adopted, and an honors board with the names of the winners in various sports was erected on the landing in the Women's Athletic Building.

Page  2011In 1938, in a new plan for Lantern Night, twenty-four residence units competed in a women's sing, which was preceded by a line of march, from the Library to Palmer Field. More than 600 women, led by the Varsity Band, marched, formed the block "M" and sang "The Yellow and Blue."

W.A.A. was hostess to the women's athletic associations from other colleges in the state of Michigan in 1940. The two-day session was held at the Women's Athletic Building, with delegates from ten colleges attending. Participation records for the year 1940-41 showed an increase of more than 400. At this time one-third of the women enrolled in the University took part in at least one athletic sport. Hockey, basketball, tennis, golf, fencing, and dancing meets were held at Michigan with teams from other schools. An innovation was the three-way meet with Michigan State and Ohio State in fencing and golf. Telegraphic meets were held in archery, bowling, and rifle.

W.A.A. received the first financial aid from the Women's League in the form of a check for $160 in 1941-42. The annual men's varsity swimming organization gave the organization $75, which was invested in a war bond. Rec-rally, which was held for three nights in Barbour Gymnasium, replaced the annual carnival given in former years. The first evening was devoted to mass physical fitness exercises and a posture contest, the second night to a discussion of grooming, and the third evening to corecreational activities. Participation in sports programs increased. Basketball and hockey were the only club sports in which there was competition with outside schools during the regular season. The dance club held a symposium for college and high-school girls in the spring, which drew 100 participants from eight schools. In May a Sports Day was held with Michigan State, Michigan State Normal, University of Toledo, and Kalamazoo College attending. Competition took place in tennis, archery, golf, badminton, fencing, and riding. The entire affair, which was under student supervision, was remarkable for the fine leadership demonstrated in its organization and administration.

The pressure of World War II affected the W.A.A. program in many ways. The heavy academic load put space at a premium so that many events had to be held at night and on Saturday afternoons, and there was difficulty in scheduling. Sports clubs and tournaments showed a slight decrease in participation, although the number taking part in more than one activity increased. The voluntary exercise program increased total participation to 2,400, two-thirds of the enrollment of women. A Camp Counselor Club was formed, making the total number of clubs seventeen.

Once again, in 1951, the National Convention of the Athletic Federation of College Women was held on the Michigan campus, with a delegation of 500 students from all over the United States.

Throughout the years W.A.A. has given strong support to women's sports and to the dance and has done much to procure adequate facilities, notably, Barbour Gymnasium, Palmer Field, the Women's Athletic Building, and the Women's Swimming Pool. The present Women's Athletic Association, directed by an Executive Committee and a Board of thirty-two members, is student led and produces many strong leaders. Its main objective is the promotion of women's sports, both campus and extramural.

The W.A.A. program falls roughly into three categories, the direction and promotion of sports, the consolidation of student opinion and interests in sports, and the responsibility for traditional projects such as Michigras, Spring Weekend, Page  2012and Lantern Night. The number of clubs supported by W.A.A., which varies between fourteen and twenty, includes the following: Badminton, Ballet, Basketball, Bowling, Camp Counselors, Fencing, Golf, Hockey, Ice Skating, Michifish, Michifins, Modern Dance, Speed Swimming, Rifle, Riding, and Tennis. W.A.A. also conducts the affairs of the house athletic managers, representing some 100 dormitories, sororities, and league houses. Such events as dance concerts, the Michifish water show, high-school playdays, college playdays, group competitions, horse shows, and clinics on golf and tennis are sponsored by both W.A.A. and the Department of Physical Education for Women.

Lantern Night had its beginning in the early 1900's. In its early days the annual event was made up of a field day and included the May Pole dance and a big picnic. Over the years, often because of inclement weather, the field day was discontinued, and since the 1940's the Lantern Night ceremonies have been conducted in May in Hill Auditorium. The women, organized in classes, march behind the Varsity Band from Alumni Memorial Hall to Hill Auditorium. Here the incoming president of W.A.A. greets a full house and gives the W.A.A. report of the year. Following this come the winners of the intergroup "Sing," for which try-outs are held several days previously. In 1955-56, thirty groups competed, and thirteen sororities and dormitories made the finals.

Miss Marie Hartwig ('29, M.A. '38), who has been in immediate charge of the recreational program since 1930, acts as Adviser to the Women's Athletic Association, which is sponsored by the Department of Physical Education for Women. Miss Hartwig's contribution to the program and to the development of the Women's Athletic Association has been noteworthy.

Particular mention should be made of the efforts of the Women's Athletic Association over a period of more than twenty-five years to raise money for the Women's Swimming Pool and to keep the project alive on the campus. The first recommendations for a pool were made by Dr. Bell in 1923. Not only did the alumni contribute generously to the project, but the labor and enthusiasm of the various student groups was campus wide. The first contribution of $1,000 was received in 1931. From that time until ground was broken in 1952, contributions were made to the swimming pool fund. More than twenty campus organizations, both men's and women's, worked unceasingly and year after year donated the proceeds of various exhibitions and entertainments so that the women some day might have a swimming pool of their own.

The Michigras Carnival, which had its beginning in the Penny Carnival, is given jointly for two nights and one afternoon by the W.A.A. and the Michigan Union. This traditional event, a parade extravaganza featuring carnival rides, side shows, and games of skill, attracts thousands of participants and clears thousands of dollars. The proceeds are divided equally between the W.A.A. and the Michigan Union. Before the Women's Pool was built the proceeds were donated to the W.A.A. pool fund. In 1954 more than $4,000 was given to the department with which to buy furnishings for the pool. The carnival is held every two years, alternating with the W.A.A.-Michigan Union Spring Weekend, which includes a sports afternoon, a soapbox derby, and multiple sports; a Skit Night is given in the evening. This, too, is a popular event which provides desirable recreation and earns money.

Much thought has been given to the problem of intercollegiate sports for women. It is felt that until all students Page  2013can be given adequate instruction, together with a realization of the place of physical education in the life of the individual, the family, and the community, staff teaching time and limited facilities should not be used in training the highly skilled student to greater perfection. The same idea was expressed by President Angell, in 1891, in a communication to the Board of Regents:

Two things seem to be clear. One is, that we should seek to make our gymnastic accommodations conduce to the normal physical development and sound health of the many rather than to the abnormal development of a few athletes; the other is, that we should so conduct and regulate athletic games that they are kept free from demoralizing accessories.


(R.P., 1886-91, p. 561.)
Although President Angell made the foregoing statement in relation to athletics for men, much of what he said can also be found today incorporated in the principles governing physical education for women. While the needs of women students have been satisfied by intramural competition supplemented by playdays, the question of competition still remains. An appropriate competitive program might prove to be a desirable instrument for the promotion of women's sports and the dance. As yet, however, nothing has been done in this direction. At present there are few sports which could be promoted without resulting in handicaps to the present program.